Like many in the Barrington community, parent Roma Khan was in mourning after 17-year-old student Marin Lacson was struck and killed by a train while walking to Barrington High School on Jan. 25.
Four days later, Khan turned her grief into action when she created the Barrington Student Safety Organization. Within a day, 200 others had joined the group. Now Khan and fellow volunteers stand guard at rail crossings in town, helping to usher walking students to classes safely.
“I was depressed and angry and I recognized that there weren’t any train crossing guards,” Khan said Tuesday as she stood near the downtown Hough Street crossing, wearing a pink and yellow crossing guard vest.
It was at that crossing where Marin was hit by a Metra train. Authorities said she was attempting to cross the tracks after an outbound train had passed, when she was struck by a second, inbound train.
Village officials this week announced a series of additional safety measures being enacted to enhance safety at rail crossings.
Barrington police will increase their presence at train crossings, with uniformed officers visible during key times to remind pedestrians the importance of rail safety.
The village also plans to install more signs at pedestrian crossings. On Tuesday morning, Barrington public works employee Doug Everhart was at the Hough Street crossing, marking out spots for new warning signs.
“Short term, we’re looking at additional signage, things we can do in-house with our current staff,” Village Manager Scott Anderson said.
Possible longer-term solutions include pedestrian gates at the Hough Street crossing near Main Street, as well as at Cook and Main streets. Village officials have asked the Illinois Commerce Commission and the Illinois Department of Transportation to support those plans.
“We’re in active talks with the Illinois Commerce Commission and the state,” Assistant Village Manager Marie Hansen said. “They have an ongoing project they have been working towards, in terms of connecting those gates to the traffic signal at Main Street and Hough. And as part of that, we have requested they evaluate this additional work with the pedestrian gates.”
Given the time required for design work and permitting, the soonest those gates could be installed is early next year, Hansen added.
Pedestrian gates already are in place where the Canadian National tracks cross Hough Street.
Village officials also are working with Barrington Unit School District 220 to review rail safety education practices.
Federal funding also has been secured for preliminary engineering of a pedestrian underpass at Main Street and the Canadian National tracks, connecting downtown to Barrington High School.
Village President Karen Darch noted that Barrington was designed by a railroad engineer who was laying out the track of the Chicago & Northwestern.
“So, we grew up literally as a railroad town,” she said. “We have got railroad, railroad everywhere.”
“(Marin’s death) reminded us that tragedy can occur at any time,” Darch added. “And whatever we can do to help avoid this ever happening again is what we would like to be focused on.”